WASHINGTON — Drones are small airplanes. Most are just a few feet in size. There are no pilots inside to fly them. Instead, some are flown by onboard computers. Others are controlled by a person on the ground.
Drones are also called unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV).
More drones are now in the skies. There are worries that one could crash into a jet airplane.
More than 1 million drones have been sold in the last few years. Drones have been seen near planes, helicopters and airfields. People see drones each day and send in reports. Most are seen by pilots in the air.
The number of reports has shot up since two years ago. Back then, drones were new. Reports were still unusual.
The reports are filed with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). It is in charge of the nation's skies.
Drone Rules Are Ignored
The FAA has a hard time dealing with drones. Air traffic controllers watch the sky to keep planes from crashing. They usually cannot see drones with radar. Drones made out of plastic are especially hard to spot.
Drones can cause planes to crash. They could hit a plane or get sucked into a jet's engine.
The FAA outlaws the use of drones by most businesses. But the rules are often ignored. Farmers use drones to check their crops. People selling houses take pictures of the buildings from the sky to sell them.
"So far we've been lucky," said Rory Kay. He is a pilot and expert in air safety. He said luck won't prevent a crash.
They're Very Hard To SeeThe FAA only allows drones to fly below 400 feet. They must be at least 5 miles away from an airport.
Jim Williams leads the FAA office that deals with drones. In March, he said an airplane nearly crashed into a drone over Florida. The drone was painted in camouflage so it would be hard to see. The FAA has not been able to find the drone or its owner.
Some Other Recent Reports— Pilots flying at 10,000 feet reported a drone. It was about 500 feet above their plane in Pennsylvania. The drone was 5 feet to 6 feet long.
— A helicopter pilot reported a drone to air traffic controllers near California. The drone was flying near the giant Hollywood sign in Los Angeles. It had a camera attached to it.
— Pilots in Florida spotted a drone below their plane. The drone was red and blue.
— Pilots reported a drone flying nearby while landing at a South Carolina airport. The drone was the size of a large bird.
— A 5-foot-long drone with a camera crashed near an airport in Texas. Police are looking for the person who was flying it.
No One Wants A CrashThe FAA plans to teach drone owners about safety. Some people flying drones may have to pay fines.
Michael Toscano leads a group that supports drones. Some people will misuse drones, he said. They do not understand the risks or just don't care.
A crash would be bad, Toscano said. However, it would not stop people from flying drones, he said.